Long Relief Hole Evident in Mets Bullpen

Eric SilvermanCorrespondent IAugust 9, 2008

One of the biggest reasons the Mets made it to the NLCS in 2006 was Darren Oliver. He was there to keep his team in the game whenever guys like Pedro Martinez and El Duque got hurt, or the Oliver Perezes and Steve Trachsels of the world got knocked out an inning into the game. Although Oliver went 4-1 with an ERA of 3.44 that year, the Mets decided not to resign him as he was aging and relief pitchers tend to have a habit of not putting together great consecutive seasons.

Although his long man replacement for the 2007 season, Aaron Sele, was a boo magnet by the Shea faithful, he still managed to eat a lot of innings in long relief, and spared the rest of the bullpen from being used to they could be fresh for the next night.

Sele's replacement, Jorge Sosa, fared far worse than his predecessor. Sosa pitched to an ERA over 7 as the Mets long man, until he was released on May 21st. Since then, the Mets have been lacking a long man. Starters Claudio Vargas and Nelson Figueroa were each given a shot to lock up that roll before being exiled to Triple- A New Orleans, but neither were successful.

The role has essentially fallen to Carlos Muniz, who has spent the last 2 years closing in New Orleans, and cannot really pitch more than two consecutive innings. This has shown, as he has gotten rocked in his long relief appearances.

The lack of a long man in the bullpen has hurt specialists like Pedro Feliciano, Scott Schoeneweis, and Joe Smith, who instead of being brought in to face a few batters, are now pitching multiple innings. It also caused the fragile Duaner Sanchez, playing his first time in August since he was with the Dodgers, to be over-worked, and he has lost significant velocity on his pitches. Aaron Heilman, temporarily the closer as Wagner heals, has also been very heavily overworked.

The Mets have used an average of over 4 relievers a game this season, more than almost every team in baseball. The bullpen has blown a plenitude of games this season, including many in the last few weeks. If there was a long man in the bullpen, this would not be the case. I was surpised the Mets did not keep Ruddy Lugo around to give him a shot, but they sent him down to clear room for Brian Stokes to make tonight's start. If Stokes has a quality start tonight for the Mets, look for him to be sent to the bullpen as the long man when John Maine comes off the DL Wednesday, and Carlos Muniz being sent back down to New Orleans.